NOTE: This takes place before (SoS) Reunion.

(The group sits within a rowdy dinner hall within the mystical Silveryn at breakfast, everyone eating their fill amongst loud conversation, laughter and fun.)

Glitterspike: (to Mercy) I must say your people are very hospitable to total strangers!

Mercy: They’re pleased to see us back, I guess.

Glitterspike: I would say so!

(Intruder is hunched over a table, wolfing down food as quickly and messily as possible, Cobalt hovering overhead catching flying scraps.)

(He straightens slightly and leers at Hope.)

Intruder: So you girls all work with unicorns?

Hope: Yes?

Intruder: That’s not very subtle really, is it?

Hope: (coolly) I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Intruder: What I’M curious about, is how you people have children? I mean, you’re in a job which bellows “I AM A VIRG-GAAACK!” *THUD! * *Slump *

(A slim wire noose had descended smoothly from the rafters, fallen over Intruders shoulders, tightened and lifted suddenly, jerking him upwards out of his seat at alarming speed till his head made contact with the rafter with a sharp crack. Then whoever was holding the noose had let go, letting the unconscious necromancer drop boneless to the floor. Hope watched with interest as Severen dropped catlike from the rafter and started rifling through Intruders pockets for anything of interest. He sat down, toying with an oddly disturbing artifact made out of shards of bone tied together with twine that defied description. He gave it a cursory examination, lost interest and tossed it over his shoulder. It landed on Intruder’s stomach, and there was a crack as some randomized dark magic fired into a corner.)

Hope: Why did you search his pockets?

Severen: (shrugs) Habit.

Hope: (smiles) Why habit? And why did you do that to him in the first place?

Severen: I’m used to wandering the roads, and nothing much can go to waste in the wastes. Everything comes in useful sooner or later.

Hope: Economical, but you didn’t answer why you knocked out your noisome friend.

Severen: Inappropriate conversation, which you didn’t want to answer.

Hope: Thank you, but I think I could have dealt with it myself.

Severen: I’m sure you could. It was as much for me as it was for you; he annoyed me.

Hope: Is that so…

(She watched the subject with interest. He was clearly unused to eating very much in one sitting, and was pecking at everything. He looked up with interest as a flagon of juice arrived; he had completely ignored the ale. Severen brought out an enormous canteen from his jacket, evidently thought that it would be rude and started to put it back. Hope caught his eyes.)

Hope: Be my guest. We have lots.

(Severen looked up to make sure that he understood, then poured the entire flagon into the canteen. Hope could see three more similarly large canteens within the confines of his jacket.)

Hope: Not one to miss out on supplies, are you?

Severen: Sorry, I’m not used to people. I’m usually on my own.

Hope: Where?

Severen: Wherever I need to be. Last place I was for any length of time was the eastern desert wastes. Other than that I’ve been on the roads for the last few months.

Hope: (musing) I’ve never seen the desert. Never seen the sea.

Severen: There’s nothing to see in the desert. Miles and miles of wastes. Not an unpleasant place to be, just not very interesting. The sea… I don’t travel by sea.

Hope: Why not?

Severen: I don’t like having to travel under someone else’s rules. On land I can wander where I want, but on the sea whether I live or die, or arrive where I want to is up to someone else.

Hope: What were you doing in the desert?

Severen: Waiting. Wasn’t anywhere else I needed to be. Some desert raiders had poisoned water holes of villages that didn’t pay them fealty. Very few water holes out there. Entire settlements died.

(He tossed a glittering chain with a blood red jewel attached onto the table.)

Severen: That was the Birth Jewel of the raider chief.

Hope: Impressive, but raiders are one thing. Taken out any dragons?

Severen: Dragons? Not lately. The one that tried to take Scarlet didn’t stand still long enough for me to put a knife through its eye. What do you know about the area around here?

Hope: Me? Well, there are a lot of marshes, fogpits, tarns and bogs around in the woods, and there are a lot more beasts out there since… well… Tristram fell.

(Severen is silent, staring intensely at a window to the hall.)

Hope: What is it?

Severen: “Jacta est alia, initet ludus.”

Hope: What?

Severen: A message in the frost of the window. I moved, and it disappeared.

(He starts moving his head, trying to see the message again.)

Severen: There it is! Jacta est alia, initet ludus.

Hope: (pauses as she works it out) The die is cast, the game begins…

Severen: You know the language of scholars?

Hope: Of course I do. I’m a healer. How do YOU know it?

Severen: I pick up things here and there…

Hope: So you do, but who wrote the message?

Severen: I have no idea. If there’s one message, there might be others.

(They stand and look around the building, but they don’t see any.)

(Severen suddenly dives outside, trying to catch the phantom writer. He finds nothing. Except a faint smell…)

Hope: (whispers) What is it?

Severen: Have a problem with vampires around here?

Hope: Nope…

Severen: (stares fixedly at a point in the mist) You do now. It must be here after D.

Hope: But he’s a vampire HUNTER!

Severen: The hunter and the hunted are not well defined…

(He disappears into the mist.)

(Hope has the sense to draw her sword and stay still rather than go looking.)

(The vampire stands in the mist, as silent as the grave, watching the settlement. It pauses as it can hear very faint footsteps approaching it, too faint for a human to pay much heed to. It turns silently and scans the mist. There is a form traced in heat several hundred meters away, crouched behind a tree, sword drawn. It grins slowly, thin ruby lips curling over enlarged incisors. The grin falls as the footsteps continue. It wasn’t alone, and hadn’t seen the person hunting it. The footsteps halted. It rapidly looked around again, seeking the heat signature of a human approaching. There wasn’t one. Scratchy sounds of movement were coming closer, but weren’t distinguishable footsteps any more. Someone was up to something tricky. The vampire snarled and ran for the nearest tree, aiming to gain a height advantage and hide at the same time. A long, black covered leg exploded out of a deep snowdrift, sending the creature tumbling, with Severen erupting rapidly afterwards to take advantage. The vampire was too fast, but as it looked around from its predatory crouch, the assailant had disappeared again. Until a figure jumped out from behind a tree and a slim blade nailed the vampire to a tree by its shoulder. Severen had used the snow he’d had to cover himself with to mask the heat that would give him away hiding behind a trunk. The vampire shrieked in pain and rage at being outwitted and clawed at the knife burning its flesh, but the silver that Severen reserved for undead creatures burnt its fingers. It turned around from its wounded arm in time to see Severen looming like an avenging shadow out of the mist, stabbing an identical silver blade into its other shoulder. The creature spat at him, blood spattering the snow.)

Vampire: You can’t kill me mortal!

Severen: I think you’ll find that I can, and besides, even if I couldn’t, this would still hurt.

(He twists one of the blades and the nosferatu shrieks in agony)

Severen: (turns to Hope) Get the others, and your people. This concerns them, too.

Vampire: I tell them NOTHING!

Severen: Not for an hour or so…

Vampire: (scornfully) Pain is in the mind!

Severen: Better hope you’re very broad minded then.

(This enlightening conversation was cut short by the rest of the group arriving over the hill.)

D: Have you found out why it’s here?

(Severen turns to the vampire)

Severen: Who sent you?

(The vampire spits in Severen’s face, and Severen doesn’t bat an eye.)

Severen: I ask again, who sent you?

(The vampire glares at him sullenly)

(Severen puts another slim blade into the vampire’s chest, who lets out a gurgling scream.)

Severen: That’s one lung. Who sent you, and why?

Vampire: (grins over bloodied teeth) You can’t kill me, no matter how many knives you put into my lungs!

Severen: You want me to experiment? So be it…

(Another blade punctures the other side of the vamps chest, releasing another gurgling shriek. The creature’s breathing is very laboured now, its lungs filling with blood.)

Severen: Who sent you?

(The vampire ignores Severen and speaks directly to D.)

Vampire: You’re father is rather vexed with you, Algorith.

D: Let him be. I’ll deal to him in my own time.

Vampire: (laughs with a horrible gurgling sound as its mouth fills with blood) You are foolish and doomed to die. You well know that those who oppose your father will stand knee deep in the blood of their children.

(Severen looks at D.)

Severen: May I?

D: Be my guest.

(Severen pulls out a crucifix and holds it in front of the beast.)

(It laughs again)

Vampire: You’re puny faith means nothing, wanderer! You don’t truly believe…

Severen: Oh you’re right… but he does…

(Severen points at Glitterspike and stands so that he can see the crucifix, which previously had been blocked by Severen’s body.)

(The vampire shrieks in pain and convulses, unable to stand the sight.)

Severen: Play nice or I’ll let Glitterspike see the crucifix again.

D: What does my father have planned?

Vampire: You’ll find out. Soon enough.

Severen: I’m getting tired of this. What doesn’t die doesn’t live. (Leans forward and whispers to the vampire…) Live and let live, says I…

(He raises another silver blade…)

D: Wait! I have an idea.

(He grabs the vampire’s jaw and pins its head against the tree, takes out a quill and writes on its forehead in the copious blood flowing from its wounds.)

D: You can release him now.

(Severen hands the crucifix to Glitterspike just in case, and tears the blades from the vampire’s body with sudden jerks. It collapses to the ground in agony, coughing up blood.)

(D leans down to its ear and whispers)

D: Here’s a message for my father. Tell him that I will find him, and that I’ll grow roses on his ashes.

(The vampire staggers off into the mist)

(Severen begins thumbing through a noisome looking book)

Severen: Did anyone know that the first chapter of the Necromancer’s Guide is called “Correct use of a shovel”?


Hope: A pickpocket too?

Severen: I pick things up.

(Glitterspike speaks to D…)

Glitterspike: I must say that writing the Lord’s Prayer on the forehead of the vampire was a master stroke. It can’t see it, but any other vampires…

D: Exactly. Simple but effective.

(Severen’s eyes widen, he spins suddenly and hurls a bloody knife at a tree. A mist-shrouded figure was watching them from a bough, smiling gently. The slim man still smiles, despite the bloody knife in his arm. The wind kicks up, the mist swirls, and the figure is gone. Severen dives around a tree, and throws three more knives in quick succession at the retreating figure’s back. The figure vanishes into the mist.)

(Severen slumps down by a tree, deep in thought.)

(The group catches up to him)

Glitterspike: What was it? Mist monsters?

Severen: No.

Altas: What then?

Severen: Someone was watching us. I chased him but he got away.

Intruder: (sourly) Didn’t you throw any knives at him? That seems to be your forte…

Severen: I did.

Intruder: Really? I guess you’re aim isn’t ENTIRELY foolproof then, no ones out there, Cobalt checked.

Severen: (Eye’s Intruder warningly) I didn’t miss.

Intruder: Hah, you must have done! There’s no one out the-

Severen: I didn’t miss.

(Glitterspike watches Severen for several seconds warily)

Glitterspike: Yes, I’m sure you didn’t. We should move on.

(They move off, the group watching Severen cautiously.)

(Severen lags behind, and his eye catches something in the snow. Four slim blades, the one he’d torn from the vampire was bloodied, the other three were clean. He’d heard four impacts.)

(He bent down and picked up one of the blades, gasped and flung it down. The imprint of the knife hilt was burnt into his already blistering skin from the burning cold…)

(Several miles away, Scarlet is hiking through the woods waiting for something to happen, and as a matter of fact is not entirely pleased with being abandoned by a town.)

(She crosses a moor and stops dead, heart freezing in her chest.)

(A scene is laid out before her. The ground is churned up as if by hooves, and dozens of unicorns depicted flawlessly in snow paw the ground. They are gathered around a figure in the center of a violent mob, seemingly frozen in time. All Scarlet can see is one hand, upflung from the center as if screaming for help among the teeming mob of enraged unicorns. Scarlet wills herself to move forward, telling herself repeatedly that it wasn’t real. But it was. It was worked in reverse; Scarlet could tell that no one else would have seen it. The scene was not an illusion, but an illusion that there was nothing there had been laid on the moor, so that any non-dragon wouldn’t see a thing out of the ordinary. But Scarlet could see what was really there, laid out for her like a piece of art. The unicorns were gathered about a central figure, and as she willed herself to drag herself forward, Scarlet could guess who it was. She was badly injured, one arm cradled protectively against herself and clearly broken. Her clothes were torn, and dark ice was layered over the frozen snow to indicate blood. From behind a unicorn had charged her, and the statues back arched like a cat as the horn punctured her breast, head flung back, mouth wide in a soundless scream, eyes wide with pain and fear, and iris’ dilated with agony. Scarlet stood transfixed by the scene, fighting down rising panic, shutting her eyes and telling herself it wasn’t really there. But she KNEW that it was, she could FEEL that it was, and she also felt that out there, on the moor, someone was laughing…)

(A smiling figure watched from the mist, slim grin wreathing his features, curling his thin lips. He watched as Scarlet struggled with herself, with her fears, and with the growing rage within her at being played like a harp. The moor was washed with orange light, lighting up the slim figure’s features as she erased the scene from existence. Scarlet moved on, not running, but walking at an unsubtle pace, face drawn in a snarl of absolute fury. The slim man stroked his slightly unshaven chin and whispered, -=Jaaactaa essst aaaaaliaaa… Iiiiniteet llluuuddduuuuussss…=- and smiled. Then the slim figure slowly rose to his feet, looked out across the area, and then, Frost moved on.)